A Generation Lost


    In 2008, the U.S. witnessed a blitz of young people involved in the political process, a demographic which by and large catapulted President Obama into the Oval Office. As many posts on Blue Virginia have either implicitly or explicitly touched upon, some (if not a lot) of this voter enthusiasm has dissipated among the “youth generations.” This is in part a result of the politics of pragmatism, a political strategy that left the Obama vision of “Change” and “Hope” behind for a pragmatic assertion of “it’s the best we could do.” There are, of course, a multitude of disparate reasons that could be cited.

    The end result has, however, been unequivocal: a comprehensive sense of apathy, disillusionment, and frustration on the part of the youth generations (those under 30). When political conversations are initiated in my own circle of friends (rare as it might be), a pervasive sense of negativity and frustration becomes readily apparent, with blame being directed in all directions of the political sphere.

    The Democratic Party, then, had an opportunity to retain an entire demographic. Instead, like a corporation that has lost the confidence and loyalty of its one-time faithful customers, the Democratic Party will have to spend a good deal of political, economic, and individual capital to bring this segment of the US population back into the fold.  

    I cannot help but feel, however, that a large chunk of the youth generation has been turned off to politics indefinitely. Maybe a renewed “political sense” will grow with age, but maybe not. Especially among those first-time voters who were energized by President Obama and the Democratic Party and then subsequently let down in the years that followed, there is a sense of hopelessness about the ability of individuals to make a substantive difference in Washington, D.C. But this sub-group of the youth generations is certainly not alone in feeling helpless and frustrated.  

    If the youth generations have generally become a cohort of political invalids, what does this signal for the future of U.S. politics in particular, and U.S. society in general? If the youth generations have generally become completely turned off to the political sphere, how will this affect future generations of republican citizens? These and related questions need to be asked now because among the youth generations, what it means to be a citizen in a republic has never fully been articulated with the adequacy necessary to foster this most valuable piece of our societal puzzle. Once this exercise in political theory is finished, maybe then we can begin to regain the confidence and energy of the youth generations that has been lost.  

    • Elaine in Roanoke

      I personally feel that much of the disillusionment on the part of young people can be credited to graduation from college and high school and facing a dismal job market, one that has resulted in a higher unemployment rate for those without job experience. I can’t fault President Obama with that situation. When he has tried to address unemployment, he has faced a GOP Congress that has stymied his every attempt.

      No one knew the extent of the economic mess in 2008, neither the young voters or Barack Obama.

    • pontoon

      It’s about being taught good citizenship in school and at home.  We have generations of people who don’t vote, never have, never will.  Those folks haven’t taught their children the importance of citizenship.  I have always taken my kids with me when I go vote.  They’ve knocked doors during campaigns.  I’ve let them “pull the lever” so to speak so they know how important I believe it is to vote.  We talk about current events at home.  We watch the news and read papers.

      It is about much more than a mere vote…it is about being involved in our communities….Working in the food pantry, volunteering at a shelter.  I recently worked on a campaign where one of our field staff’s father is a Republican.  The Dad stopped by one day and told us a story about his son being a Democrat.  They are from NC which requires you to register by party and the son registered as a Dem.  When he got home, his father said so how did you register?  Son replied, as a Democrat.  Father says, “Why in the world would you do that?”  Son says, “You’ve been my Sunday school teacher and taught me about the Bible, I don’t know how you could teach me about Jesus and what he believed and be a Republican.”  Here’s a Dad who taught his son to be involved, to think for himself, and is proud of him, even if he is a Democrat.

      Little is taught in our homes or schools today about good citizenship.  If we want participation in the process then we need to educate our young people about why the process is important to them.